- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Michael Nylander is always the last one off the ice during the Washington Capitals’ pregame warmups, so that marked the first time his presence was noticeably absent last night.

Nylander has played with a torn left rotator cuff for about six weeks, but he will have season-ending surgery today to repair his shoulder.

“He was going to tough it out and see how it went, but it got to a point where he couldn’t take it anymore,” Caps general manager George McPhee said. “It has to be the player’s decision. The manager or the coach can’t tell the player what to do in a situation like this.”

It happened on a faceoff Dec. 1 against Florida, and he missed the next four games with an “undisclosed injury.” Since then he has played with pain, periodically taking days off from practice to rest the shoulder.

Nylander flew to Ohio and will have the surgery done at the Cleveland Clinic. He is expected to need three to six months of rehabilitation time.

The 35-year-old center became the team’s marquee free agent signing in the offseason. He signed a four-year, $19.5 million contract for a second stint in Washington on July 2. Nylander leads the team with 26 assists and ranks second in points to Alex Ovechkin with 37.

He is also a team-worst minus-19, but Caps coach Bruce Boudreau attributed some of that to the injury.

“I think it was an adjustment early on. Not a lot of guys had played with him before, and he has a different style,” Caps goaltender Olie Kolzig said. “As a result, there was a lot more turnovers than we’d like, but I think the past three or four weeks he has played really well.”

Boyd Gordon moved into Nylander’s spot on the second line against Ottawa. Viktor Kozlov, who has moved back and forth between center and right wing this season, is another internal option. McPhee said he does not plan to pursue an external move at this point, be it a trade or a call-up from Hershey of the American Hockey League.

“We’ll go with what we have,” McPhee said. “We played pretty well when he was out of the lineup before. We’re not going to trade assets, young players just to plug a hole.”

Nylander had a career-best 83 points last year with the New York Rangers. He has played for seven different teams in his 13-year NHL career. He scored his 200th career goal Sunday against Philadelphia, and he has 646 points in 848 games.

“He did a courageous job of trying to come back, but sometimes he didn’t have the strength in his arm to play like Michael Nylander,” Boudreau said. “It is very, very sore, so he is going to get it fixed.”

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